Social work students on mental health fast-track scheme to get bursaries equivalent to £19k salary

Think Ahead has also revealed the location of its summer institute and a more detailed overview of how the scheme will work

Students on the mental health social work fast-track scheme Think Ahead will receive training bursaries equivalent to a salary of at least £19,000, it has been revealed.

The bursaries will be tax-free payments and equivalent to the take-home pay of someone earning a salary of £19,000 for students based outside London and £22,000 for those based in London.

The bursaries will cover the first 14 months of the two-year programme, which aims to recruit ‘high calibre’ graduates into mental health social work.

In the second year, students will be employed as newly-qualified social workers and receive a taxable salary. The exact salary will depend on the employing NHS Trust or Local Authority, but is likely to be in the region of £21,500 outside London and £25,000 in inner London.

Think Ahead published early details of the bursaries this week and are expected to confirm the exact amounts later this year.

Bursary values

The value of the bursaries is similar to those received by trainees on the children’s social work fast-track scheme, Frontline, (also £19,000) but higher than bursaries available to students on traditional social work courses.

Students on traditional courses can apply for bursaries of up to £5,262 per year if they are undergraduates and up to £3,762 if they are postgraduates. They will also be liable for tuition fees of up to £9,000. There are no programme fees for Think Ahead.

How the Think Ahead programme will work

Think Ahead students will begin the training scheme with an intensive, 30 day residential learning programme that takes place in summer 2016.

The ‘summer institute’ will be held at Devonshire Hall in Leeds and aims to prepare the first cohort for frontline work by teaching a grounding in approaches to mental health social work.

The curriculum will include teaching, exercises and participatory sessions, and will be delivered in part by people with lived experience of mental ill-health.

Year one

In year one, each student will work in a unit of four Think Ahead participants. The units will be led by a consultant social worker with extensive experience in mental health social work. The consultant social workers will act as managers for students in their first year.

The role of the unit will be to work on cases assigned to a multi-disciplinary community mental health team that supports adults with mental illness. The unit will take shared responsibility for the care of individuals it works with.

Students will also spend time working in a child and family social work team, undertake periods of academic study and attend leadership sessions.

At the end of the year, participants will gain a postgraduate diploma in social work.

Year two

Students will spend the second year of the course working as a qualified social worker in a mental health setting – either with a host NHS Trust or local authority. This will be participants’ Assessed and Supported Year in Employment.

Students will also continue academic study and leadership development to achieve a master’s degree in social work at the end of the year.


Think Ahead invited bids from education providers to become its academic partner earlier this year. The partner will be announced when applications open in September.

Like Frontline, Think Ahead partners with a range of bodies, including the Department of Health and think tank the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR).

A number of private companies have also offered pro-bono support to the programme, including the global advisory and consulting firm Deloitte.

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3 Responses to Social work students on mental health fast-track scheme to get bursaries equivalent to £19k salary

  1. Beth August 24, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    I keep reading about these fast track schemes that the government seem to be pouring money into and as a recent graduate I find it very frustrating. Apparently, the eligibility criteria doesn’t allow students who have a BA in Social Work to participate in this course. I cannot understand why the government wouldn’t invest more time, money and effort into those who have graduated and are struggling to get a job, than those who may not have a degree which has any relevance to Health or Social Care. Surely that is a better investment, the hundreds and thousands of recent Social Work graduates who are trained but may need more support to gain employment. It sounds to me like it’s a way for the government to get more cut throat business/managerial type employers who won’t mind stepping on the little guy to meet all the unrealistic ‘targets’.

  2. M McInnes August 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    I agree! These courses don’t outline how the traditional, inherently political values of social work will be imparted on students either. Essentially, these schemes are creating a two-tier system in a profession that is already being fragmented by tcsw closure/removal of bursaries etc.
    I hope BASW are able to take up these issues and be a voice for current social work undergrads and practitioners!

  3. Simon Wallis September 15, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    Interesting reading, yet again no recognition for those in the field who would like to do the Social work degree but cant afford to do it on there current salary.
    No mention of supporting Social workers who have qualified and have knwoledge and experience in the field but cant get the jobs in Mental Health due to one reason or another.

    As a worker who has some years experience in the care field of work I would like to know why there is no recognition for those of us who work aloong side Social Workers going out and completing assessments yet when we try to register interest in taking the Social Work degree we are knocked back due to not having the right qualifications. I tried to register and was asked fro an cademic record, problem with this is I left school in 1987 and my school has changed its name twice since then so I was rejected.

    Lets get this sorted and start recognising the people in the posts for support to Social Work degree and those that are qualified getting further support to enhance there knowledge and development.